Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I Live in the US, But I Still Cannot Pronounce Anything Properly

Back in the day, I wrote this post about "English" words that people in Germany used but I didn't recognize. I also noted recently that I never pronounced the name of the city I lived in properly.

Well, I live in the US now, but one of the quirks of living in Boston, or maybe in Massachusetts generally or even in the East Coast generically, is that a lot of places have names that you think you know how to pronounce, but don't. I suppose it's carried over from the UK, so the city of Worcester, MA is pronounced "Wooster" (well more like wuhster). And Haverhill is pronounced HAY-vril, naturally. Even words that you're 100% sure you know how to say are pronounced differently. For example, Peabody, MA isn't pea-body as you might assume, but pea-buddy.

I live on Tremont Street. It took me a couple of weeks before I realized that it is not pronounced TREE-mont. Knowing that there was a different pronunciation, my first thought was that it must be TRAY-mont. But no, still wrong. It took me a couple of months, probably, to get it right, and now it's a little difficult to puzzle out how to write what I say. I'll go with treh-mont or maybe treh-munt, unless someone else has a better idea.

2 comments:

Phil said...

The general rule about how to pronounce place names in English is that you can't.

At least in the UK though we've got the excuse that the places probably got their names centuries ago, when pronunciation was different and everyone was illiterate.

I grew up in Leicester, pronounced Less-tuh. I remember in primary school the class being taught how to spell Leicestershire, and how you just have to accept that the letters bear no relation to the sound.

By the way, I'd guess Treh-mont. :)

Jackie said...

I'll give you the Leicester/Lester, Worcester/Wooster thing. And I'll concede that the American Midwest where I grew up is full of American Indian place names and French place names which are not pronounced as the French would pronounce them. But pea-buddy? pea-buddy?